Because of the researching genius that is Ty Harding, the following breakdown (in importance and amount of resources require to neutralize) of US security threats was discovered. Really, this is something you will want to have with you for the entire debate season (or just memorize it) because it is so easily understood, clearly defined, and potentially helpful.
Read through the entirety of the few paragraphs in the excerpt copied to this blog post. But why not read through then entire PDF document afterwards and learn more?
National interests can be categorized in order of priorities as follows:
First Order: vital interests.
This requires protection of the homeland and areas and issues directly affecting this interest. This may
require total military mobilization and resource commitment. In homeland defense, this also may require a coordinated effort of all agencies of government, especially in defense against terrorist attacks and information warfare. The homeland focus was highlighted by the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security by President George W. Bush following September 11. The purpose is to coordinate
the efforts of a number of agencies in countering terrorism in the United States.
Second Order: critical interests.
These are areas and issues that do not directly affect the survival of the United States or pose a threat to the homeland but in the long run have a high propensity for becoming First Order priorities. Critical interests are measured primarily by the degree to which they maintain, nurture, and expand open systems. Many also argue that moral imperatives are important in shaping national interests.
Third Order: serious interests.
These are issues that do not critically affect First and Second Order interests yet cast some shadow over such interests. US efforts are focused on creating favorable conditions to preclude Third Order interests from developing into higher-order ones.
All other interests are peripheral in that they have no immediate impact on any order of interests but must be watched in case events transform these interests. In the meantime, peripheral interests require few, if any, US resources.
Taken from: “US National Security: Policymakers, Processes & Politics” FOURTH EDITION, ISBN: 978-1-58826-416-9